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Sexual Risk Behavior

Risky sexual behaviors are defined by the increased risk of a negative outcome, such as contracting or transmitting disease or the occurrence of unwanted pregnancy.

Risky sexual behaviors include:
  • Having more than one sexual partner
  • Changing sexual partners frequently
  • Having sexual contact without a condom
  • Using unreliable methods of birth control, or using birth control inconsistently1


Sexual risk behaviors place individuals at risk for HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and unintended pregnancy.
Many young people engage in sexual risk behaviors that can result in unintended health outcomes. For example, among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2013, 34% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these 41% did not use a condom the last time they had sex. Additionally, 15% had had sex with four or more people during their life and only 22% of sexually experienced students have ever been tested for HIV.2


Anyone who is sexually active has the choice to practice responsible sexual behavior. Those who do not practice responsible sexual behavior are at risk for HIV infection, other STDs, and unintended pregnancy. Individuals need education, skills training, self-esteem promoting experiences, and appropriate services related to sexuality, along with positive expectations and sound preparation for their future roles as partners in committed relationships and as parents.
To reduce unintended pregnancies, adolescent births, STDs, and HIV, it is important to encourage responsible sexual behavior. This can be accomplished by:
  • Use latex condoms correctly and consistently
  • Reduce the number of sexual partners
  • Choose less risky sexual behaviors
  • Get tested and treated for STDs and encourage sexual partners to do the same
  • Abstain from sexual activity
  • Engage in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner
Risk behavior information is collected during a medical visit with a health care provider or during an infectious disease investigation. Understanding what type of sexual risk behaviors are spreading diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea help public health officials determine the best methods to educate the public with risk reduction interventions to stop the further spread of disease.

The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site (http://ibis.health.state.gov). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Fri, 18 August 2017 10:25:11 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://ibis.health.state.gov ".

Content updated: Thu, 10 Aug 2017 16:26:47 MDT